Many years ago I discovered a connection between my kids and their occasional frustration filled outbursts. I tried to blame it on sleep deprivation, hunger, developmental stages, and even hormones. Then one day I had the realization that I was the root cause for their behavior. The moments when I was impatient and quick to raise my voice influenced them to do the same with one another. Even though I was instructing them about how they should use their words, I was being a poor example. In those moments I was living the ineffective motto of “do as I say and not as I do”. Thankfully, I was able to change my behavior to match my words and lead my kids in a better direction.
Leading by example is one of the most powerful leadership principles that impacts every area of life. Our example sets a standard, teaches expectations, and communicates what is acceptable. Leadership is influence. As women in ministry, our influence reaches far beyond our words. The motto “It’s not what you say but what you do” rings true. Although there is great value in our words, our actions show others if we truly believe what we’re saying. Our walk talks louder than our talk talks. (Say that fast 10 times!)
Jesus walked the talk. He’s is the greatest leader we could ever follow. Throughout the Bible, He gives us the answers we need to lead others successfully. In John 13:12-15 he speaks to the disciples:
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Jesus didn’t just set an example for the disciples; He set an example for us too.
Three Leadership Lessons from John 13:12-15
- Jesus set a standard. Not only did he communicate what was important by washing the disciples feet, he was unapologetic about setting a standard for them to follow. As women in ministry, we should be unapologetic about our influence as leaders. Although we don’t shout it from the mountaintops, we acknowledge that our example sets a standard that others will follow. If we desire for our churches to walk in love, to serve, to sacrifice, then we influence others by setting the standard for how to love, how to serve, and how to sacrifice. This truth should inspire us to lead in such a way that we can echo what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
- Jesus taught expectations. Unlike the mixed messages I was sending my kids years ago, there was no confusion about what Jesus expected from the disciples. He washed their feet and then instructed them to do the same. My kids were never going to meet my expectations for behavior because I was teaching them mixed messages. My talk didn’t match my walk and ultimately my walk spoke louder than my talk. As leaders, it’s unfair for us to teach an expectation that we don’t model ourselves. How can we expect our staff to protect a positive, life-giving work environment if we’re pessimistic and disagreeable? No amount of pep talks about expectations can combat our actions. Our actions communicate what is acceptable. As leaders, we must reinforce our expectations with both words with works.
- Jesus communicated using words and works. The one-two punch. In John 13, Jesus performed a work and then used words as reinforcement. Words are good and works are good. But when we combine the power of both words and works it’s a one-two punch that takes our leadership to a whole new level. Peanut butter is good. Chocolate is good. But when you put the two together and you have a one-two, knock out, whole other level kind of greatness. Can you feel me?
Friends, leadership isn’t easy. Yet, if we study scripture and follow the example of Christ, we have everything we need to know. Successful leadership is rooted in one truth; we lead by example in both our words and our works. Our example sets a standard, teaches expectations and communicates what is acceptable.
What is your example communicating to others? Are you sending mixed messages of “do as I say and not as I do”?